Being a born and raised black woman from Bedstuy, I like to think I can spot a scam from blocks away. I’ve seen people getting hustled for cash, phones, jewelry, etc for most of my natural life. So it came as nothing but a devastating blow to my ego (and funds) when I literally and figuratively got taken for a ride.
This adventure into how I got played like a fiddle started at my usual go-to for groceries in the “Stuy” aside from Mr. Kiwi’s, at Food Bazaar on Myrtle and Broadway. A standard market with plenty of aisles of sometimes hard to find goods that any millennial hipster resident is bound to be delighted over. This particular evening in the hood I hadn’t dressed for the frosty 30 feeling like 10-degree weather. I still found the adult in me fighting onward to finish my last errand of the day. After the intentionally speedy shopping trip and after the otherwise long day of adulting, my iPhone and I were running close to empty. This begins my harrowing experience of the night.
While shivering my hind off, I hastily try to procure a way home via my favorite ride-sharing apps. A rather risky situation, considering my misleading battery on 5% and was likely to shut down at any given moment. As I asked the security guard who was nearby opening up a locked gate, what the exact address was, he answers, excitedly “Why are you looking for a cab?” I nod “Yes!” without hesitation. He then rushes back indoors with the promise of assistance. Mere moments later a middle-age black man meets me near the exit and promises he’s been sent out to help me hail a cab from a nearby service. Nothing out of the ordinary as of yet, two older gentlemen one an employee from the store the other, a local clearly there to earn his stipend for helping. Within 10 minutes my ride was whisking me off to my not so near hood. The price, a smidge lower than what my apps displayed, it felt my night had gone off without a hitch. All was well up until my departure from the said vehicle.
The driver, as I was exiting the vehicle to retrieve my groceries asked for his payment. I was a little taken aback but pushed on trusting the man’s East African accent and toothy smile. I give him the fare with tip and the second I closed the door and walked back towards the trunk of his car he sped off full force. As I mentioned before I was raised in Bedstuy so I’ve got quite the stamina and endurance for running. With nothing else to lose I start sprinting in my Ugg’s determined to stop the trifling grocery thief. I give it my all still freezing in my light leather jacket. I am in arm’s length from the trunk as he yielded but decided not to stop as the traffic sign demanded, almost as if were to confirm this was no mere accident. I’d been had, if not by that man alone, then a ring of deceivingly helpful and gracious individuals.
Depleted, frustrated and seething with anger I make just about every single phone call possible. Starting with the man who so delightfully offered to help me in the first place, the security guard. After minutes of tracking the voice down, he agrees we’d spoken to each other prior but denies that he’d offered to help me find a cab because it’s specifically against the companies rules. He also refused the notion that he knew of anyone that’s assisted a shopper with transportation. My next stream of furious phone calls tackled every cab service in the surrounding zip codes, none of which dispatched a car to the store I was at or heading to my location. The next most final solution is one that is rarely considered and even more scarcely used, I called the police. Frantic and only remembering the ‘T’ on his license plate I describe my predicament to the dispatcher. Apologetic she inquired if I’d used any of those handy app’s to find my ride of the night which of course, I misguidedly had not. After a brief wait, I was alerted by the station that my partially documented experience (from the grocery store parking lot and traffic cams passed along the way) was simply not enough for a police report, therefore, leaving me empty-handed and helpless. With the finality of the dispatcher’s tone, it ultimately occurred that the scam I found myself on the losing side of, was pretty foolproof. The security, kindly gentlemen and pay-less driver could’ve very likely been in cahoots leaving me blindsided.
With that experience finished I take a few bits of lessons learned: always get your own cab, take notes of your driver’s license and TLC plates, and if the deal seems too good to be true, you can bet your bundle of groceries it is.